Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Labour Day? How appropriate because it's hard work finding a decent wine this week.

September 1 means Labour Day is next Monday.  Labour day,  a day to give the working man one last kick at the can that is summer!  The LCBO says “Let’s celebrate Labour Day by selling a bunch of over priced Champagnes!”  It’s  Labour Day! An average price of over $100 on these bubblies doesn’t say working man (or woman) to me!  Delving deeper into the release, the Fall fĂȘtes section is pretty much a waste of paper. I will say that the scallops recipe looks terrific but I might pair it with the inexpensive Spanish Cava ($13.95) or the  DOMAINE DE VAUGONDY BRUT VOUVRAY ($16.95) from this release. The Big and Bold table setting is a laugh – too bad they couldn’t put one of the Big and Bold wines they’re trying to sell on that table!  After fall fĂȘtes comes  the Russian Revelation  (Stop, you’re killing me with your wit!  No wait, let me get even!  I was considering the Pinot but now I’m Lenin towards the chard… or …. Where’s the informational  map of California showing the Russian River Valley with a big Karl over it? Karl Marx the spot.  Bada-boom,  I’m here until Thursday, try the veal). That focus is followed by the Ontario Royal Couple. The wines being sold almost duplicate the Russian River repertoire.  I suppose if you want to compare wines, you could use the two as a basis for that comparison. Failing that, use them to line your birdcage. 
There is nothing in this release that I just have to buy so it comes in at 51 points on the VRSS. I gave a point for the scallop recipe. But, there is some good news …. A few sort of satisfying, ‘$17 and under’ wines are available.  Finally, there’s the nod to the working man!
UNDER  $17
Two  Food and Drink ‘formerly $15 now marked up to $17 specials’ are promoted  like specials but priced  above where they should normally be sold. Both should provide some pleasure but let’s not be fooled into thinking we’re getting a deal here.  The 2008 OSCAR’S ESTATE is an Aussie Cote Rotie blend from a hot vintage in the famous Barossa Valley.  The 2010 CHATEAU DE GALIFAY CAIRANNE is a named village in the Cotes du Rhone Villages appellation meaning the bottle should contain wines of a higher quality than the standard CdR or CdRV.  Both reflect the LCBO’s opinion that Ontario wine drinkers will pay more for their wines. Note to the LCBO, we’ll pay more (and already do!!!) but  only if the wines  are worth the extra dollars – these aren’t. For instance,  below is the Wine Align review for the Oscar’s Estate Shiraz. Is a dollop of viognier really worth $4.05 more?  So Buyer beware!

TEDESCHI CAPITEL DEI NICALO APPASIMENTO 2010 – I’ve been a fan for some time. At $15.95 this is pretty well  priced. Great pizza/ lasagna wine!
ZENATO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2010 – At $15.95 I think I’d prefer the Tedeschi, but you can be the judge.
BODEGA LAN CRIANZA 2008 – Gee wasn’t  an earlier vintage of this a Food  and Drink special at $15? Yes but if it’s up to LAN’s usual standards this is OK priced at $15.95.
GERARD BERTRAND ST. CHINIAN SYRAH MOURVEDRE 2009 – $16.95 Terrific producer, this’ll be a smokey, spicy blend.
JEAN LUC BALDES TRIGUEDINA LA CHAPELLE DU CLOS MALBEC 2008 – $16.95 Give it time if you expect  to compare it to an Argentinian Malbec.
SAMPETRIANA VIGNE DEL LA MONACHE RISERVA SALICE SALENTINO 2006 – At $15.95 a 5 star winner in Decanter, this one should be right in its drinking window. Probably needs food.
LEGON CRIANZA 2008 – A 90 pointer from ‘90 points Miller’. Again at $15.95, it’s a good price for a wine that might actually evolve.
BASEL CELLARS M 2007 - $28.95 - Creeping up on the big buck segment but holding under the $30 line this  blend of  Cab Sauv and Merlot should provide sophistication and Washington State fruitiness.  I haven’t tried this one before but might be looking for one or two.
The 2010 D’ARENBERG HIGH TRELLIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON is always good and, unlike many of its siblings has managed to hold the line on pricing . At $19.95 it’s a nice round the BBQ wine.
CASTELLO DI BOSSI C. BERARDENGA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2009 at $22.95 might be allright but Mr. Suckling’s reviews seem to have slid over to the wine shill side of the ledger rather than the wine critic side since he left the Wine Spectator so keep that in mind.
Ignoring  the big buck champers  there are a number of more expensive options that might be tempting.
SEBASTIANI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 – Cassis hits big time but too highly priced at $34.95.
WAKEFIELD ST. ANDREWS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 – Wakefield is a wonderful producer of value priced Aussie wines. If you enjoyed their regular releases and want to try taking a (big) step up, try this one at $49.95. Is it 3 times as good as their normal listing?
CASCINA BUSSIA DARDI BAROLO 2006 – Ageworthy and well priced for a great Barolo vintage at $39.95.
BANFI BRUNELLO 2007 – At $59.95, this is out of my self imposed  price range but the quality is always there – needs more than a few years to settle in.
FATTORIA DEI BARBI BRUNELLO 2006- Oft times a bit more approachable in its youth than the Banfi, softer, more fruit forward perhaps.  A terrific vintage and at $41.95, ok priced for a Brunello.

No time for bad wine - Geyser Peak is headed back!

Last week I recommended the Walking Tree Cabernet from Geyser Peak. This week I'm recanting that recommendation. The wine is short, fruit seems both green and prematurely oxidized, tannins are there but not in concert with the wine. All in all a very disappointing  bottle. Perhaps it was the beginning of  a headcold? Nope, my wife shared my opinion - from the first mouthful to the last it was drudgery to drink. Served with BBQ'd Whole Foods filets ( holy crap, pricewise they're the LCBO of food stores), I expected a dynamic duo, a perfect pair on the palate. Too bad, they were great steaks! I bought two of the Geyser Peaks - where's that receipt? The second one is headed back.

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 18 - Southern Rhone, PNW, and Sake

The August 18th release is almost upon us which means we’re in the home stretch of another summer. Good Grief, where did it go? Weather wise, it has been spectacularly warm. Vintages release wise? Not so hot.  This release seems to be a continuation of that trend. Originally, when I read the focal points of this release were to be the Rhone and Pacific Northwest I thought “Oh boy, I’m going to love this one.”, but after giving the release notes a quick perusal, mmmmm, not so much.  These two wine producing areas should yield a bonanza of wine selections. Somehow though the LCBO has managed to put as few wines as possible per page and make it into a boring rehash. The VRSS comes in at 62 for what had the possibility to be no less than an 81 to 84 VRSS point release!
The 2010 Southern Rhone should offer some very good alternatives. But please, 10 pages to sell only 13 different wines? That’s a remarkably wasteful and inefficient use of both printed material and bits and bytes.  The Pacific Northwest focus , which completely underwhelms with a staggeringly low  6 wines on 8 pages is even worse. Seeing how many cases of each wine they’re bringing in (where are you when I need you Michael Vaughan of Vintage Assessments?) may change my opinion but the $ performance per page for this release appears to be absolutely mind numbing to anyone familiar with a real retail business!
The third focus this week is Sake. I like sake once in a while with my sushi but I actually prefer a beer or two.  I never consider it other times. Result? The Sake section is a complete nonstarter for me. YMMV.
The Rhone opens with two entry level Cotes du Rhones and a CdR Villages. It’s an inauspicious beginning  when the same winery is shown to have two different owners (Farjon Besnardeau  and  Barjon Besnardeau. Who proof reads these things? It’s Farjon by the way).  Either way, Domaine les Grand Bois has two wines here. One’s a Cotes du Rhone, the other a CdR V. Both should be good if a bit overpriced. Cambie’s Halos de Jupiter is also good but I expect we’ll get as good for less as more samples of the  2010 vintage show up in later Vintages releases.
Among the named villages (and ignoring for the moment Chateauneuf du Pape), Vacqueyras and Gigondas are my favourites but Cairanne and Vinsobres are always good as well.  It seems like yesterday that  Vintages sold 5000 cases of  Perrin’s  Vinsobres Les Cornuds at a cool $15. And this year’s comes in at $17.95. Is that a 20% increase year over year? Yes it is! Nice negotiating there LCBO. A new label should not cost me $2.95 more!  I’ll  negotiate by  taking a pass on the Vinsobres for now and recommend you readers do the same. Too bad – it’s a good wine but ….
PICK # 1- GIGONDAS PERRIN LA GILLE 2010 - $29.95 – Not cheap but worth it if you have somewhere to keep the wine for a few years. On the nose, expect olive notes, dark berry fruits, hints of meat and as it opens taste it pass through raspberry and blackberry fruitiness. Nice wine but does need some time. I had a 2006 last week that was superb. Tannins? Soft and completely integrated. The Clos de Cazeaux might be almost as good but for less.
DOMAINE GRANDY VACQUEYRAS 2010 – At $18.95 this is a well priced WoM and there should be lots around. A touch fruitier and more approachable now than the Gigondas but also substantially less expensive.
See the Big Bucks notes below for the Chateauneuf du Pape picks available in this release
The lone possible pick among  the Pacific northwest wines is the 2009 COLUMBIA CREST  H3 Cabernet. This  is a rerelease (A special focus and they rerelease wines and vintage) of a very good, if slightly overpriced  wine. It’s not quite up to the merlot from the same vineyard in the last few years but it’s still a very good cab sauv option especially around a BBQ. It’s also my only reco from this focus, although the also rereleased Ste. Michelle Chard is always good.
 WAKEFIELD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 $17.95 – From the cooler  (for Oz) Clare valley, Wakefield’s products always offer terrific value and quality. Better price than the H3 and equal in every way.
PICK #2  GEYSER PEAK BLOCK COLLECTION WALKING TREE VINEYARD 2007 $28.95 – Always tasty and rich. A real mouth full of cassis hits, some cedar notes. Big.  I’m a sucker for the Geyser Peak Block Collection wines and am not ashamed to admit it. But it’s expensive compared to the H3 or the Wakefield so I could waffle as it gets closer to time to open the wallet!
SUMMERS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 – At $29.95 there is quality in the bottle and it’s a toss up between this and the Geyser Peak but I know the Geyser Peak. DO I spring for a couple of both or just load up on the H3/ Wakefield combo?
EVANS AND TATE METRICUP ROAD SHIRAZ 2009 $19.95 A WoM from Western Australia wine, so expect more subtlety  than the ZONTE’S FOOTSTEPS  and perhaps a bit more sophistication. Grilled lamb anyone?
ZONTE’S FOOTSTEPS LAKE DOCTOR SHIRAZ $16.95. – This one hails from the Langhorne Creek region so you can taste the regional differences between there and the Barossa if you still have some of the recently released Baron von Nemesis. Not a bad price for another  BIG, bold Aussie.
PICK #3 RENZO MASI CHIANTI RISERVA 2008 Another $15.95 bargain – Reviewed as a  smart buy  by Bruce Sanderson in Wine Spectator, this should provide instant pleasure at such a good price!
ALTESINO ROSSO DI ALTESINO 2009 $18.95 – From an excellent producer of Brunellos, this wine gets additional oomph from touches of cab and merlot. Very tasty and easy to drink.
DI MAJO NORANTE CONTADO RESERVA AGLIANICO DEL MOLISE 2009 - $15.95 and 91 points from Galloni? A buy if you like tarry, licorice-y fruity wines. So close to being a pick!
CELLAR BESLLUM 2008 – A nice Spanish option at $15.95. This one earned  93 points from Jay Miller, the 90 point man himself. Expect fruit, smoke, tar and even leather on this youngish wine. Could be a real bargain.
TORBRECK’S WOODCUTTER BAROSSA SHIRAZ 2010 – Don’t do it! At $30.95, this wine has steadily increased in price over the last few years and is no longer worth the $$’s. It should be mid twenties at most and $19.95 on promotion. It’s among Torbreck’s entry level wines.  If you do spring for it, decant carefully first as it’s unfined and unfiltered. If you don’t decant, pour with a gentle hand and you’ll want to beware of the chewy gunk in the final glasses. Wine gunk can be like fresh spinach when strained  through your teeth – not too nice to look at!
VERBENA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 – Terrific score from Monica Larner, even if it’s three points less at 91 this is pretty well priced for a Brunello at $37.95
Among the Chateauneuf du Papes available in this release I’d spring for the SAINT SIFFREIN first, then perhaps the BOSQUET DES PAPES  CUVEE TRADITION.  Even very young, the 2009 Saint Siffrein was excellent.
SBRAGIA MONTE ROSSO VINEYARD 2006 – At $54.95, this one isn’t cheap but comes with a pedigree and will age for some time.